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Richard de la Pole : biography

1480 - 24 February 1525

Richard de la Pole (1480 – 24 February 1525) was a pretender to the English crown. Commonly nicknamed White Rose, he was the last member of the House of York to actively and openly seek the crown of England. He lived in exile after many of his relatives were executed; here he became allied with Louis XII of France in the War of the League of Cambrai, who saw him as a more favourable ally and prospect for an English king than Henry VIII.

During 1514, the stage was set for a Yorkist reclaiming of England under Richard. He was in Brittany with 12,000 mercenaries set for the invasion, leading his army to St. Malo; however France and England made peace just as they were about to embark and as thus it was called off. Later, with Francis I as king, Richard struck up an alliance in 1523 and planned a Yorkist invasion and reclaiming of England once again. However this never came to light as Richard died fighting alongside Francis I at the Battle of Pavia two years later.

Yorkist heir

His eldest brother John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln (c. 1464-1487), was named heir to the throne by his maternal uncle, Richard III of England, who gave him a pension and the reversion of the estates of Lady Margaret Beaufort. However, on the accession of Henry VII following the Battle of Bosworth Field, Lincoln took the oath of allegiance instead of claiming the throne for himself.

In 1487, Lincoln joined the rebellion of Lambert Simnel, and was killed at the Battle of Stoke. The second brother, Edmund (c. 1472-1513), succeeded his father while still in his minority. His estates suffered under the attainder of his brother, and he was compelled to pay large sums to Henry VII for the recovery of part of the forfeited lands, and also to exchange his title of duke for that of earl. In 1501 he sought out Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, in Tyrol and received from him a promise of substantial assistance in case of an attempt on the English crown.

In consequence of these treasonable proceedings Henry VII seized Edmund's brother William de la Pole, with four other Yorkist noblemen. Two of them, Sir James Tyrrell and Sir John Wyndham, were executed; William de la Pole was imprisoned; and Edmund de la Pole, 3rd Duke of Suffolk, was outlawed. Then in July 1502 Henry VII concluded a treaty with Maximilian by which the Emperor bound himself not to countenance English rebels. Presently Suffolk fell into the hands of Philip I of Castile, who imprisoned him at Namur and in 1506 surrendered him to Henry VII, on condition that his life was spared. He remained a prisoner until 1513, when he was beheaded by Henry VIII at the time his brother Richard took up arms with the French king.

Richard de la Pole joined Edmund abroad in 1504, and remained at Aix-la-Chapelle as surety for his elder brother's debts. The creditors threatened to surrender him to Henry VII, but, more fortunate than his brother, he found a safe refuge at Buda with King Ladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary.

He was excluded from the general pardon proclaimed at the accession of Henry VIII, and when Louis XII of France went to war with the Kingdom of England in 1512, he recognized Edmund's pretensions to the English crown and gave Richard a command in the French army. In 1513, after the execution of Edmund, he assumed the title of Earl of Suffolk. In 1514 he was given 12,000 German mercenaries ostensibly for the defence of Brittany, but really for an invasion of England. These he led to St. Malo, but the conclusion of peace with England prevented their embarcation. Richard was required to leave France, and he established himself at Metz, in Lorraine, and built a palace at La Haute Pierre, near St. Simphorien.

While at Metz, he was visited by Pierre Alamire, the German-Netherlandish composer and music copyist, who was a spy for Henry VIII. However, Richard employed Alamire as a counter-spy against Henry, and Alamire, on being suspected of unreliability by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Henry VIII, never returned to England.

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